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I Forge Iron

Adventures of a Newbie

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Hello guys,

I was just thinking about my first forging attempt and I figured I'd put it down in words. This is nothing more than my thoughts on my first attempt, so read no further is ya don't care...

I had been watching all these videos online about how to forge things.... to my mind.. a knife. I had wanted to forge a knife since about 11 years old, and at 44 years of age, that left quite a gap. I don't know why I didn't look into blacksmithing at a local community college or workshot, or any of the number of ways you can start... but I never did. One night I was perusing through some youtube videos and I watched a guy forge something from a scrap piece of metal. It wasn't much, but I was totally captivated. I ended up watching hours of video on how to forge things. I wanted to try, but I didn't want to invest much money into something I may not like. So I decided a brake drum forge would be the best alternative to find out if I would like blacksmithing. Hell, I even found a brakedrum for free and brought it home. In the end I didn't want to pay the 20 dollars for the parts so I went a different route. I have this old chimenae in my yard that I haven't used for years. The top part had broken down to the sand filled part and I had been using it for decoration for years. This basically left me with a huge ceramic bowl filled with sand. I took an old barbeque wood smoker box(approx. 4x3x1 inches with a grated lid designed for gas grills), cut a hole in the bottom and welded some steel tubing to the hole, for an air intake. I then buried the box in the sand up to the edges of the lid as well as the tubing to protect it as much as possible from the heat. My pulse was racing... I was close.. would it all work? Shop Vac well duct taped to the air intake I vowed to try.

My tools were a heavy blacksmithing hammer I bought cheap and rewedged solidly as the original one sucked, a cheap 55lb anvil that I got even cheaper from a local website, and aforementioned forge. Fuel for this misadventure turned out the be scrap wood from a neighbor clearing his yard. Could I really make something with this really basic setup I had? I had been working alot of overtime the last few weeks, so it was sorta a miracle how these pieces assembled themselves. Now that I had them, what should I do... I hadn't even planned ahead enough to decide what to make. After looking over my small scrap pile I settle on a piece of scrap rebar I had. Man, o' man I envisioned that clip point knife video I had watched over and over again.

You never know 'til you try is my motto, so I fired her up. Honestly to begin with, I was just hopin I could flatten the rebar... nothing more, I just wanted to see heated metal move. The air flow was good, and after forty years of campin' I'd best know how to tend a flame so it wasn't all that long until I had that rebar glowing. I pulled it out and commenced to giving the end a few good blows. Not only was I amazed at how easily the metal moved, but I was totally captivated by the process. A few heatings later I had a nice straight billet worked out of the rebar, not perfect by any means, but well within my expectations. I was happy so I continued on. I worked the billet out to about the dimensions I wanted, then ate dinner to get the wife off my back. After dinner it was cool 'nough so I ran to the garage and cut the end of the billet off to make a clip point.. was that even the right terminology? :)

Man was I happy, it was all looking so good. Now the really tough part. The bevels. I hammered nice and soft on both edges of the heated metal and marveled as the blank started curving and clip point started forming. As I was forging I was trying to pay attentiong to the coloration of the metal and how it moved under the hammer blows. The hotter is got, the easier the going, so I kept pushing that edge. I was paying really close attention and keeping the edge just the right color and the knife was doing exactly what is was supposed to, but then tragedy struck. I had the blade forged excactly as I had envisioned, but I decided I needed one more heat to straighten it just that little bit. I'm not really sure what happened... I pretty much did what I had been doing all night, but when I pulled my o' so perfect knife from the fire the tip looked like a crack addict's teeth. All eaten away and ugly. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. All my work ruined. I don't give up easily, so I tried to reforge the tip which ended up in total disaster. I weakened the metal in one area and finally decided to let well enough alone. After a not so short time at my little belt sander I reastablished a profile I felt wouldn't weaken the knife as a tool. The knife wasn't so pretty anymore, but I figured I'd learn valuable lessons by finishing it. She cleaned up nicely, though some of the blemishes were way too deep to get out. Not really sure how good the steel was I started w/ I decided to leave well 'nough alone.

Yesterday I brought the knife up to full heat and quenched it. The blade survived so at least that worked out. I haven't cleaned it up beyond this, but I did get a cut piece of red oak free at the store so I am making a handle and we'll see how it does as a tool.

I knew from the first hammer blow I was hooked. When I saw that metal move... well I'm sure you all understand...


This is the knife after I profiled it, before I cleaned it up then hardened it


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Dear Friend, Please accept my condolences. I am sorry to be the first to confirm what you must already suspect. In short you exhibit classic symptoms to a dreaded terminal illness. Be assured that you are not alone in this circumstance. I think that it is safe to say that all who post here are afflicted with the same symptoms and final fate.

All is not lost. This malady has been known to exhibit severe symptoms for may years. Although few actually pass from the effects of this condition It is likely that you will suffer the effects for the rest of your life. The only known treatment is to forge hot iron.

Best of all things to you

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Sounds like you made the same mistake I made when I forged my first item. I was making a J-hook all pretty as you please when I burnt the curl and instead of a nice curl I have a rounded mass on the end. This is life, eh?

The thinner the material the easier it is to heat. The easier it is to heat, the easier it is to burnt. Keep a close eye on the tiny bits and you can avoid it (usually). Answering phones seems to induce burning as well.

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Welcome to your newest obsession/addiction/passion.

As with most things in life, practice and a lot of patience will dictate how sucessful you are.

I have burnt many pieces of iron by not paying enough atention to what I was doing. Luckily these were from scrap. Since I started buying my iron, I've become a lot more careful. Mistakes translate into loss of revenue.

Pay attention to the advise you are given here, there are a lot of knowledgable blacksmiths here. I've learned a lot. Enjoy the ride! Every tuesday nite at 10:00PM eastern (US) there is Blue Prints in the chat room. There will be many smiths there and Glenn will post plans of things to make. Great time!


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